Ask Matt: 'Dancing' With Disaster? 'Titan Games,' Hallmark Movies & More
Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist" — Matt Roush, who'll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today's vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)
One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won't be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it's already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.
Seeing Stars Over Dancing Changes
Question: I can't believe the producers thought they could fix Dancing With the Stars' ratings by firing Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews. Tom in particular was the best part of the show. Hats off to both for their totally classy statements after their firing. As hard as it is for them to find "stars" that are recognizable, the controversial and political contestants, and the unpopular voting formats were all more of an issue in my opinion. I doubt I'll be tuning in for any future seasons. — Mary Kay
Matt Roush: As you can imagine, this move by ABC to shake up one of its signature franchises has got many of its fans hopping — if not dancing — mad. The next response is the most thorough takedown I received this week.
Question: Is ABC making a concerted effort to further alienate Dancing with the Stars' viewers and send one of its longest running shows to an earlier-than-necessary demise? After cutting the show to a once-a-season cycle, losing (or firing) many pro dancers who became more famous than their "celebrity" partners, making bad-to-worse casting decisions that only fueled division and resentment (hello, Sean Spicer) or continuing to scrape the bottom of the reality show barrel, allowing voting calamities to make a mockery of what is supposed to be just a fun dancing competition — Bobby Bones was arguably the worst "celebrity" dancer one season, yet somehow won) — and seeing the critiques of longtime judges either have little impact on voters or directly contradict themselves from week to week, the only consistently good, dependable and entertaining aspect of the show that remained was the co-hosting performance of Tom Bergeron (probably the best thinking-on-his-feet reality show host of them all) and Erin Andrews (not quite as indispensable, but her enthusiasm and experience as a past contestant was always helpful). And now the network summarily dismisses them both in one fell swoop? If someone was writing a script about how to kill a reality TV show, this would seem to be the plot point enacted right before the "murder." — Todd S
Matt Roush: Because there was a lag between the news of the hosts' firing and the announcement of Tyra Banks, none of this first wave of outrage addresses the new host — though, as I've often advised, best not to judge until we see her in action. But I've always felt Tom Bergeron deserved more than just one Emmy for having hosted this series over the years with such aplomb, grace and wit.
ABC is well within its rights to try to freshen a franchise after this many years, though I agree with Mary Kay that the lamentable casting of "stars" because of political or tabloid notoriety, and leaning on reality and Bachelor veterans to fill the ranks, helped contribute to its ratings slide. A better solution that might not have alienated as many Dancing loyalists would have been to transition Tyra into the show as Tom's co-equal co-host and give him a full season to pass the baton to his successor. While it's possible though unlikely that Tyra can bring in a considerably new and younger audience to the format (unless that becomes unrecognizable as well), the risk of turning away the core audience, as old-skewing as it may be, is undeniable.
Another Issue With Dance on TV
Question: I've loved your column for a long, long time and wanted to get your feedback on NBC's World of Dance. My wife and I have both loved all seasons of World of Dance and this season is no exception. However, we are both annoyed at how they incessantly show the judges while the acts are in the midst of their routines, which takes away from the full experience of watching a troupe. I understand the judges are the "talent" and need to be showcased, but why not do it in a Picture-in-Picture mode, or just allow us to hear their critiques mid-routine? We feel like it takes away from the dancers and their routines. Thoughts? — Rob
Matt Roush: This is a fairly common complaint about performance-based competition shows — I used to hear it even about the dancing show I loved best, So You Think You Can Dance (which I miss this summer). From what I've seen of World of Dance, it is a far worse transgressor because of the higher profile of its judges, and because producers and networks are so star-struck they believe we're tuning in as much for the judges as we are for the talented contestants. Maybe that's the case for The Voice (especially in the blind-audition process), but surely not here. Your fix of an occasional picture-in-picture reaction shot is a good one. Still distracting, but at least you'd get to see the whole routine.
It's Grueling Enough Just to Watch!
Question: I absolutely love The Titan Games! Learning about the contestants and their workout routines and how they have overcome obstacles in their lives to make it to the Titan Games to compete is nothing short of amazing! I love cheering them on each week! Dwayne Johnson does a great job motivating them and supporting them as they compete. My question is: Are the obstacles for the men and women competitors done in one day including Mount Olympus, or are they given time to rest before tackling Mount Olympus? — Tamme S, Sioux City, Iowa
Matt Roush: I am assured that the competitors get ample time to rest between battles. And more often than not, the Mt. Olympus race is taped on a separate day.
The Hallmark of Comfort-Food TV
Question: I watched Hallmark movies all month long in May and saw the commercials for upcoming movies in June. On June 6, the first one was supposed to be Country at Heart with Jessy Schram, Lucas Bryant and Niall Matter. It was not on! Then it was scheduled in the TV Guide on 6/9 and 6/13. It wasn't on then either. I also tried to find it on On Demand with no luck. Can you please find out what happened to it? The commercials make it look like it would be a real good movie. — Diane C
Matt Roush: Programming schedules have been in disarray for months because of the pandemic, with a number of previously announced shows rescheduled for a time later in the year when original programming is expected to be scarcer. I'm not sure if that's what happened with this particular title, but in Hallmark's latest programming overview, Country at Heart has now become part of the annual "Fall Harvest" movie event, and it's currently scheduled for Oct. 3.
Question: Last year and this year, in July, the Hallmark stations have started Christmas movies every day. I like Christmas movies just fine, but having them from July thru December is a little ridiculous. What is up with that? — Judy M
Matt Roush: As the late, great Jerry Herman once wrote for Mame: "We need a little Christmas, right this very minute." That has been Hallmark's philosophy, if not year-round, then close enough. Airing Christmas movies during the dog days of summer has long been one of the company's signature feel-good stunts. And I imagine this year in particular, with all the dire news out there, even those who typically cringe at these movies' sentimentality and predictability might find some comfort in a bit of cornball upbeat yuletide escapism. Personally, I tend to agree with you. But it obviously works or they wouldn't keep doing it.
A Fall of Borrowed Content?
Question: I have a question about the upcoming network fall season. If production on new and current shows continues to be delayed due to the virus, has there been any discussion about the networks raiding their streaming services for content? I know NBC's Peacock is new, but surely they have something available or from a partner they could bring out. I would imagine CBS All Access and ABC's Disney+ are full of content — even something a couple years old — that could fill in. I'm not sure about Fox, but I don't think they had much room for scripted series in the fall, anyway. And doesn't The CW already procure some content from other sources? I'm sure there are a lot of people with headaches, trying to figure out how to fill slots. — Julie
Matt Roush: This is already happening to some extent. Fox, which held back several of this year's midseason series to air in the fall, is deferring the premiere of most of its new and returning live-action scripted series until 2021 midseason, and has picked up L.A.'s Finest, which originally aired on demand for Spectrum customers. As you noted, the fall lineup on The CW includes network first-runs from streaming services (Tell Me a Story and Swamp Thing) and acquisitions from Canada or further abroad. The other broadcast networks haven't made these calls yet, and with the exception of CBS recently conceding that a new season of Survivor won't be ready for fall, they're still sticking more or less to their regular lineups for now, primarily for business and advertising purposes. More shoes are likely to drop as we get closer to September, and I'd be surprised if you won't see more deals licensing streaming, cable and international product to fill their lineups. (NBC already has the hit Canadian medical drama Transplant waiting in the wings.)
The Summer of Buffy
Question: A comment on your recent remark about the value of summer reruns giving shows a second life: Summer reruns have been important to me, at least in 1997. As a 33-year-old guy in spring 1997, I was not really waiting for Hollywood to create a show about a teenage girl battling vampires on the WB! But at some point in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's first short season I caught an episode and loved it immediately. I am very grateful for the summer reruns. So I was all set for Season 2 in the fall and BTVS became my favorite hour TV show of all time. — Michael
Matt Roush: That's a great testimonial, and it does make you wonder how many short-lived shows with out-there premises might have caught on with this kind of nurturing and exposure. But that was before the digital explosion when shows could be accessed and downloaded in so many ways, and the importance of linear airing became diminished, sometimes for better but often for worse.
That's all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that I can't do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. Please include a first name with your question.